The Apple Trees at Olema includes work from Robert Hass's first five books Field Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, Sun Under Wood, and Time and Materials as well as a substantial gathering of new poems, including a suite of elegies, a series of poems in the form of notebook musings on the nature of storytelling, a suite of summer lyrics, and two experiments in pure narrative that meditate on personal relations in a violent world and read like small, luminous novellas.
From the beginning, his poems have seemed entirely his own: a complex hybrid of the lyric line, with an unwavering fidelity to human and nonhuman nature, and formal variety and surprise, and a syntax capable of thinking through difficult things in ways that are both perfectly ordinary and really unusual. Over the years, he has added to these qualities a range and a formal restlessness that seem to come from a skeptical turn of mind, an acute sense of the artifice of the poem and of the complexity of the world of lived experience that a poem tries to apprehend.
Hass's work is grounded in the beauty of the physical world. His familiar landscapes San Francisco, the northern California coast, the Sierra high country are vividly alive in his work. His themes include art, the natural world, desire, family life, the life between lovers, the violence of history, and the power and inherent limitations of language. He is a poet who is trying to say, as fully as he can, what it is like to be alive in his place and time. His style formed in part by American modernism, in part by his long apprenticeship as a translator of the Japanese haiku masters and Czeslaw Milosz combines intimacy of address, a quick intelligence, a virtuosic skill with long sentences, intense sensual vividness, and a light touch. It has made him immensely readable and his work widely admired.
“Hass’s achievement is often nothing less than splendid. . . . Conscious of language and its limitations, the tug-of-war between mind and body, Hass’s newest work still manages to wholeheartedly engage with the world around him . . . a generous gift for any reader.”
“THE APPLE TREES AT OLEMA...masterly conveys the beauty and fragility of the physical world....earthy yet illuminating, complex yet clear-eyed....The result is poetry that seems to breathe, inhaling softly in some cases, exhaling sharply in others.”
-Christian Science Monitor
“[A] lustrous retrospective collection...Hass distills experiences down to their essence as he limns landscapes, portrays friends and loved ones, and imagines the struggles of strangers. The ordinary is cracked open to reveal metaphysical riddles in poems that feel so natural, their formal complexities nearly elude our detection.”
“A milestone in what is generally regarded as one of the more successful careers in contemporary American poetry...Reading a good Hass poem...is like watching a painter whose brush strokes are so reassuringly steady you hardly notice how much complex and unsettling depth has been added to the canvas.”
-New York Times Book Review
“The new poems show Hass at the height of his narrative powers... He tries to get every word he can into each line, every detail he can into each poem, as though, if these feats are possible, then it’s also possible to save some part of the world from dissolution.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)